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Ask Slashdot: Will You Shop Local Like President Obama, Or Online? 430

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-buy-local-businesses-off-amazon dept.
theodp writes "President Obama and his daughters headed to an indie bookstore last Saturday to promote shopping local. The White House did not disclose which books were bought, but author Lauren Oliver tweeted her delight after a White House photo showed her books Delirium and Pandemonium were among the 15 children's books purchased by the Obama family for Christmas gift-giving. While it made for a nice Small Business Saturday photo op, do you suppose the President paid much more for the books at the small indie bookshop than he might have at an online retailer like Amazon, where the hardcopy edition of Pandemonium is $10.15 (44% off the $17.99 list price) and the hardcopy edition of Delirium can be had for $10.47 (42% off the $17.99 list price)? Kindle Editions of the books are also available for $7.99. And with both titles eligible for free Amazon Prime shipping, the President could've saved on gasoline and Secret Service costs, too! So, will you be following the President's lead and shop local this holiday season, or is the siren song of online shopping convenience and savings too hard to resist?"
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Ask Slashdot: Will You Shop Local Like President Obama, Or Online?

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  • Like Obama? (Score:5, Funny)

    by hawks5999 (588198) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @03:18AM (#42114235)
    No. I'll use my own money. Oh wait. He'll use my money too.
    • Re:Like Obama? (Score:4, Informative)

      by bmo (77928) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @03:25AM (#42114267)

      Stuff like gifts and whatnot, is out of pocket for the President (unless it's for diplomatic purposes). So is food.

      While my cousin who is a lawyer gets food delivered at work on the company dime, the Presidential family has to pay for their own.

      Your post is a troll and stupid.

      --
      BMO

      • Re:Like Obama? (Score:4, Informative)

        by wvmarle (1070040) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @03:32AM (#42114309)

        Well, his salary is paid out of your taxes...

        • Re:Like Obama? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by BradleyUffner (103496) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @03:36AM (#42114325) Homepage

          Well, his salary is paid out of your taxes...

          And my salary is paid out of profits from the company I work for that came from other people buying things from them. That doesn't make it their money.

          • Re:Like Obama? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by hawks5999 (588198) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @03:41AM (#42114349)
            I'm betting your company doesn't send people to jail for not spending their money there.
            • by patch5 (1990504) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @03:45AM (#42114365)

              I'm betting your company doesn't send people to jail for not spending their money there.

              Unless he works for the entertainment industry . . .

            • Are companies in the habit of handing out products and services for free?

              If you take that companies products and don't pay for them, or consume that companies service and don't pay for them, then I guarantee you will either go to jail or pay remuneration in another form. Don't kid yourself.

        • Re:Like Obama? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by artor3 (1344997) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @03:41AM (#42114347)

          In that case, the OP is using his boss's money for his shopping. Or is it the money of the people who buy from his boss's business? Or does the money belong to the bosses of the people who buy from the OP's boss's business?

          Hmm, this is getting confusing. Can we please just agree that people, even public servants, own the money paid to them, until they pay it to someone else?

  • Slashvertising? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by deweyhewson (1323623) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @03:22AM (#42114253)

    Is this supposed to be a news story, or an excuse to get an Amazon advertisement on Slashdot? That summary only needed a © Amazon PR Department notice at the end.

    But I'll bite anyway and offer this perspective: people generally know you can find better deals online; that's not a marvel concept. B&M stores simply can't compete with low overhead online warehouses dollar to dollar. But lower prices are not why people shop local. They shop local because of in-person browsing, personalized services, and loyalty to their community, probably in that order.

    • Amazon is fairly ubiquitous now, ditto Walmart, etc. Imho, one should avoid all these companies for numerous reasons. But how?

      Enter the numerous Chinese online retailers. End consumers cannot shop at alibaba.com, but anyone can buy those large minimum orders and resell on ebay. One should therefore always search ebay when shopping.

      In many product type, there are large scale specialized online retailers that ship direct from China, like dx.com. Now dx.com's prices aren't necessarily better than amazon's

      • by wvmarle (1070040) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @04:10AM (#42114473)

        Enter the numerous Chinese online retailers. End consumers cannot shop at alibaba.com, but anyone can buy those large minimum orders and resell on ebay.

        Alibaba is not a shopping site. It's a business to business trade site, that's very different. You don't place orders over Alibaba, you search for suitable suppliers there, then contact them directly, and negotiate a deal with them. After the first contact, Alibaba is usually out of the equation. They make their money with listing fees, not by sales commission like ebay does.

        If you are looking for a Chinese alternative to ebay, try taobao [taobao.com]. You will have to be able to read Chinese of course, but that's where the Chinese go for online shopping, and where Chinese individual retailers put their goods up for sale.

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        not alibaba, you mean aliexpress (or dino direct, or any of 100 Chinese companies that takes USD and ships world-wide).
    • by MrEricSir (398214)

      They shop local because of in-person browsing, personalized services, and loyalty to their community, probably in that order.

      Now that online retail is charging local sales tax, the loyalty argument isn't as pronounced. If nothing else it levels the playing field for competitive pricing with IRL stores.

    • by dgatwood (11270)

      Actually, IMO, you're off by a mile.

      First, if you can find significantly better deals online, then the store is overpriced, period. You have a choice when you run a store: sell cheap and make it up in volume, or sell expensive and lose the sale. When I buy DVDs and Blu-Rays at Fry's, they're usually very close to or cheaper than the Amazon price, because the Amazon price builds in a margin to accommodate the free shipping, whereas Fry's doesn't have to absorb that fairly significant cost. And they'll pr

    • Re:Slashvertising? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @08:55AM (#42115829) Journal

      But lower prices are not why people shop local. They shop local because of in-person browsing, personalized services, and loyalty to their community, probably in that order.

      People have this odd conception that shopping local somehow is better for the economy, too. It's probably better for the local economy, in the same way that high interest rates on over-valued houses are better for banks: concentrates money in a certain place, in a way that's actually harmful economically but is good for a certain specific entity at the cost of everyone else.

      Parable of the broken window again and again and again. In this case, you could buy a book for $19 locally; or you could buy that book for $8 on Amazon Kindle, and spend $11 at your local farmer's market. In the former case, "your community" is richer--where "your community" is a book store. In the latter case, *you* are richer: you have a book *and* you have food, for the same money as just the book; on top of that, the farmer's market has some of your money, instead of the book store having it.

      If the book store goes away but the local farmer's market grows, tough beans for the book store. You don't need a local book store--everybody is getting their books cheaper on Amazon and it's the same shit. What you do need is fresh, locally-grown produce that hasn't been picked unripe, gassed, shipped across the entire country, etc. How do I know this? Because nobody's buying books locally and everyone's buying local produce, that's why the farmer's market got bigger and the book store went bankrupt! If you'd all just buy books locally and cut back on the farmer's market spending, a bunch of people would be sitting around reading their expensive books going, "Gee, I wish we could afford good quality fruits and vegetables and fresh meats from a local farmer's market, but we don't have one and I spend all my money on books..."

      Looks ridiculous on a small scale, but when you build it out this is exactly what happens. Arbitrarily subsidizing businesses has a cost.

  • do you suppose the President paid much more for the books at the small indie bookshop than he might have at an online retailer like Amazon

    I don't know. Do you? Because if he did, and you could tell us that, you might actually have a point to make. For all we know he might have paid a lot less.

  • by Kwyj1b0 (2757125) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @03:26AM (#42114279)

    The way the summary was written, the question can be condensed to: "Will you spend more money at a local retailer, or less money and buy online"?

    I'm all for supporting local retailers when they provide a valuable service - I visit my local library/store where I can chat to a librarian/store-clerk and get valuable feedback/information. But the article doesn't raise any of these issues. Instead, it focuses on the downsides of brick-and-mortar shopping, without raising any of the positives.

  • by jcr (53032) <jcr&mac,com> on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @03:30AM (#42114295) Journal

    Fuck that. I'll buy from the vendors offering the products I want at prices I agree to. This "buy local" horseshit is nothing but guilt-tripping. Customers aren't property, and if local retailers can't compete, then they shouldn't be in business.

    -jcr

    • by hardtofindanick (1105361) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @03:51AM (#42114389)
      I like to have local retailers around, so I don't mind paying the $7 extra as long as I can afford it. Never felt like property either.
    • by _Ludwig (86077) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @04:12AM (#42114487) Journal

      Enjoy living in your desolate factory suburb then.

      Believe it or not, to some of us, concepts like “community” are more than boxes to check off in Hipster Buzzword Bingo, they mean something identifiable and concrete. I want to live among businesses run by people I know, people who are accountable to the sensibilities of their particular customers, people who interact with the neighborhood they do business in beyond dreary gray spreadsheet transactions. I want to know where my stuff comes from and how it’s produced, and all of that’s worth a few extra bucks to me.

      “Buy local” isn’t about guilt-tripping you into buying from a less-efficient-than-Amazon retailer, it’s about fostering values other than “the cheaper the better no matter what the external costs to society.”

      • by afgam28 (48611)

        Amazon's efficiency means more than just cheaper books. It also means a wider selection of books, and this is what is more important to me.

        If all the bookstores in the world were small local bookstores, then all they'd sell is the same small selection of shitty Twilight fan fiction and Dan Brown paperbacks. Ever try to buy a good, up-to-date programming book at a local bookstore?

        • by _Ludwig (86077)

          Twilight and Dan Brown consumers are hardly the bread & butter of the remaining independent bookshops. You’re describing an airport chain bookstore. Real bookstores are curated by knowledgeable staff who — especially if they know you — can make recommendations and provide ad-hoc reviews. I have at least two sci-fi oriented bookstores within half an hour of my house, plus a board/role-playing game store, plus several decent comic stores. I can hang out at any of them and chat with infor

      • by adolf (21054)

        I want to live among businesses run by people I know

        So do I. Unfortunately, nobody I know sells stuff that I want.

        people who are accountable to the sensibilities of their particular customers

        This word, "accountable." I do not understand how it applies to a transaction involving an exchange of money for goods in any way that is different when buying local vs. abroad.

        people who interact with the neighborhood they do business in beyond dreary gray spreadsheet transactions.

        How does a retailer's interaction w

        • by _Ludwig (86077)

          “Accountable” in this context means responsive. Your interaction is a dialogue, not a mouse click. If your locals aren’t selling what you want, you can talk to them and make requests; their business model will adapt to shape itself to its customers’ desires. Go ask a Best Buy clerk to start stocking Linux laptops, see where that gets you.

          If my values don’t sync with yours and you don’t care about the things that I care about, no problem, shop at Walmart and save money on

      • I like community as well. But I loathe big shopping centres (malls to you North Americans) and I would much rather buy commodities from the Internet. It may not seem like it, but most retailing are information providers - you get to check out the product in store. Nowadays you find everything you need to know about a large number of consumer products online, so why not buy there as well?

        If (or when) everyone bought commodities online, the local community would still exist. It would just be centred around ba

    • Paying taxes (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Epeeist (2682) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @04:14AM (#42114501) Homepage

      Fuck that. I'll buy from the vendors offering the products I want at prices I agree to. This "buy local" horseshit is nothing but guilt-tripping. Customers aren't property, and if local retailers can't compete, then they shouldn't be in business.

      -jcr

      Whereas I prefer to shop from companies who actually contribute back to the local economy by paying their taxes and not stashing them away in tax havens. If companies have sociopathic policies I try to avoid them.

      • by dgatwood (11270)

        That covers the 5% of the product's cost that goes to the local business. What do you do about the other 95%?

      • Wouldnt you be better off buying from Amazon and writing a check to the tax man. If you buy from the local store, they get about 5-10% in tax. If you buy from Amazon and send a check, they could get 44% of the price. I am sure the tax man will agree with me.

      • Whereas I prefer to shop from companies who actually contribute back to the local economy by paying their taxes and not stashing them away in tax havens. If companies have sociopathic policies I try to avoid them.

        I can argue that purchasing from Amazon saves me money, money which can then be used to buy extra stuff at local school functions, charities, etc... which helps the community even more than giving more money to one local business-owner. Sociopathic companies is a different matter, but I agree w
    • Fuck that. I'll buy from the vendors offering the products I want at prices I agree to. This "buy local" horseshit is nothing but guilt-tripping. Customers aren't property, and if local retailers can't compete, then they shouldn't be in business.

      You need to take an economics class. Its not purely a guilt trip, there is also actual science and math behind spending locally. Sales and marketing people don't have to lie on those rare occasions when the truth is actually on their side. This is one of those. Spending locally can benefit you, or divert harm from you.

      Where you spend your money has a multiplier effect on the community you are spending in. You can benefit your community or you can benefit someone else's. Which of the two do you think is m

  • by funwithBSD (245349) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @03:30AM (#42114297)

    I tried, but my local shop was all out of buggy whips.

    And Twinkies.

  • by riverat1 (1048260) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @03:37AM (#42114327)

    Local businesses are at the core of the community. They employ my neighbors and me*. They support local activities and charities. They pay local taxes. I like dealing with them face to face. All of those things and more are worth more to me than saving a few bucks online. I do buy online for things I can't find locally or maybe if the price difference is ridiculous.

    * Actually I work for a medium sized multinational corp. but when I started it was a local business that eventually got bought out. We still are active locally.

    • by Grimbleton (1034446) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @04:12AM (#42114489)

      Just for an example, Home Depot is a multi-national corporation. They also support local activities and charities, and pay local taxes.

    • by afgam28 (48611)

      That's an interesting way to approach life. But let me ask you this: if everyone followed your philosophy, would the world be a better place or worse? Sure, you buying locally will help your local community. But if other people in other communities restrict their shopping to their local shops, wouldn't your local community suffer because it no longer has any markets to export to?

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        I locally buy my Chilean grapes and Filipino bananas.
      • That's an interesting way to approach life. But let me ask you this: if everyone followed your philosophy, would the world be a better place or worse? Sure, you buying locally will help your local community. But if other people in other communities restrict their shopping to their local shops, wouldn't your local community suffer because it no longer has any markets to export to?

        No. Because not everything is made or available locally.

        Plus there are little complications such as when price is the only factor in a purchasing decision it destroys competition by favoring larger organizations that can leverage economies of scale, externalize costs (manufacture in regions with poor environmental laws, recognize profits in regions with little to no taxes, etc), engage in monopolistic or other unfair practices, etc.

      • Well, there would be less pollution by virtue of many fewer trucks on the road.

        On the other hand, if you didn't live near a chip factory you would have to live in the pre-computing age.

  • I Am a Market Signal (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Markmarkmark (512275) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @03:39AM (#42114335) Homepage

    I feel it's my economic duty to provide accurate and useful signals to the market, so my dollars go to the most efficient and cost effective source that meets my requirements for quality, selection, availability and price. If I need something immediately or I need to touch it before buying, I choose a local supplier offering those benefits. If I don't need those things, I select on the remaining criteria. To choose vendors on arbitrary 'feel good' sloganeering deprives me of the best value and deprives the, perhaps distant, vendor that worked hard to meet my mix of needs of the sale they deserve. It also sends false demand signals to local vendors. However these false signals only serve to distort the market temporarily but otherwise are pointless gestures that, in the long run, achieve nothing and help no one.

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      What's funny is that when others say that about Apple and Microsoft, they get insulted and modded down. "I buy Apple because they have the largest and highest quality app marketplace." "I buy MS because they have hardware support for everything because everyone develops drivers for it." People buy what has value, even if others disagree with that value opinion.
    • by SecurityTheatre (2427858) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @04:49AM (#42114675)

      Like someone else said, I specificly frequent local establishments in my neighbourhood, because I know the owners, they live down the street and I see them at the pub on weekends and on my sports teams.

      There is value in community. These people, living in the neigbourhood make substantially more money than the assistant manager at "SomeBig MegaStore", and the a huge chunk of that money doesn't end up in some gated community in Arkansas. Then they turn that money back to the community, bringing up home values, allowing other people the chance to open local businesses. In the end, it may not benefit me directly as much as shopping at "SuperCheap MegaStore", but I feel better about it.

      As far as I'm concerned, the macroeconomic value of mega-stores promotes a huge class of "factory floor" worker and a tiny fraction of Billionaires, whereas buying local ensures a large group of upper-middle class.

      I can tell you that I've known a few Billionaires and a lot of factory workers, and neither of them deserve what they have. Sure the Billionaires work hard and are smart, but often not substantially more than the local shop owner. Sure the factory workers may lack education, intelligence, drive, etc, but are much more gainfully employed at local shops, where they are subject to community standards of behaviour, living, etc.

      Other than to the Billionaire class, and people with no concern for their local community, and for the fact that I have no idea how one might equitably do it, I'm a huge proponent of preventing businesses from becoming multinational, and encouraging local investment in small business.

      How one does that, other than just one purchase at a time, I have no idea.

      Of course, you can choose to be a cog in the machine as well..... Faceless suburbs make me sad.

      If you place someone in a major intersection in the suburbs of most major cities in the USA, you simply can't tell where you are, without considering weather and what little vegetation might be visible.... and I find that a bit sad. This is absolutely not the case in most other places in the world.... I think it's a cultural deficit, honestly.

      • by bogjobber (880402)
        Exactly. Shopping locally is a matter of ethics, much like purchasing organic food. It's not so much that the product is different or better, although oftentimes it is. But you're supporting a business model that creates healthy communities rather than destroying them.

        To some people, every good is a commodity and you should try and find the cheapest good possible. But IMHO (and yours, obviously) every dollar spent is a social decision. You're not just buying a widget when you spend $10 at Wal-Mart,
    • by drnb (2434720)

      ... my requirements for quality, selection, availability and price ... To choose vendors on arbitrary 'feel good' sloganeering deprives me of the best value ...

      You need to take an economics class. Spending locally is not merely feel good sloganeering. Where you purchase and where things are made do matter. Where you spend your money improves a community, if not your then someone else's. The health of your community and your local government's ability to provide you services also provides you a value. With respect to the local government, if they don't get taxes from local businesses they will get it directly from local residents. If things get too extreme or too

  • To increase my chances to meet Mr Obama in person!
  • I'm not independently wealthy, and I don't have a job that pays me $400k/yr on top of that, plus my room and board paid for...

    So yeah, I'm going with the Amazon option if I want anything.

  • or the scrooge, whichever you prefer.
  • While it is cheaper to buy online, it is not always better to do so. I usually buy online only books that I know I already decided to buy.

    However I buy more books by visiting physical stores. This is the only place where I can go to and browse through the books, read a few passages, get acquainted with the volume in hand. This process is more important for me than hit-and-run browsing on the internet. Books are tangible goods for me.

    I suspect USA president might have visited a bookstore for similar reason (

    • by Moskit (32486)

      edit:
      I was wrong, he seems to already have a list prepared, just bought it locally. Not what I meant.

      "Then Obama reportedly whipped out his BlackBerry smartphone, on which he made a shopping book list."

  • Rich man's game now (Score:5, Interesting)

    by macraig (621737) <mark DOT a DOT craig AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @04:37AM (#42114627)

    Shopping local - which doesn't mean shopping at Wal-Mart - isn't something (smart) poor people can really afford to do any more. The mass producers and "service providers" have been funneling so much of the material wealth in their direction - mere pennies each at a time but multiplied by hundreds of them and tens of millions of blood donors^H^H^H^H^Hcustomers - that when a person is poor there really isn't enough left after the aforementioned get their cuts to share with local mom-and-pop businesses, whose overhead is high and economy of scale very low and who need higher profit margins to justify what they're doing.

    This is why poor people shop - and all too often also work* - at Wal-Mart. They don't have the option to shop local like Barack and Michelle.

    * It's also worth noting that Wal-Mart KNOWS their employees are also customers: not only does Wal-Mart pay low wages and deliberately toy with hours to keep a third or more of its workforce part-time and ineligible for benefits, it also doesn't offer an employee discount. The end result is that Wal-Mart actually gets back as profit a portion of the low wages it pays its employees.

  • Remind me again what we call paying more for the same product that everyone else gets a smaller cost?

    I wish I were rich enough that a several dollar difference didn't matter.

  • by WillAdams (45638) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @09:07AM (#42115915) Homepage

    Went to a local hardware store (in business since the Civil War) to purchase bullet catches for a woodworking project since I knew that they carried Stanley brand, unlike the local True Value distributor which I was in on Sunday which carries National Hardware --- turns out that Stanley sold their hardware division to National Hardware, so the bullet catches were the same as the ones I'd rejected on Sunday, just in Stanley's black and yellow packaging.

    Lowes and Home Depot don't bother w/ much small hardware, so no bullet catches at either when I checked on Sunday.

    The only other choice locally (since the last nearby independent woodworking shop closed) is Woodcraft and their inexpensive bullet catches seem to be from the same Pacific Rim factor which makes them for National Hardware so that leaves Brusso catches (too expensive and I want surface mounted strike plates), so I had to order from Lee Valley in Canada (and order strike plates from D. Lawless).

    I really regret my father selling his father's anvil --- looks like I'm going to have to take up metal-working to have nice hardware for my woodworking projects.

  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @09:56AM (#42116293) Homepage Journal

    I did go out on Black Friday and did find a pair of beat around shoes for 70% off the normal price, but other than wine from a local vineyard, didn't find anything.

    The same with almost every shopping trip, nothing to find. Since I'm not one of the herds of hippos roaming the country, stores refuse to carry clothes in my size. As I don't buy products made in China, that excludes just about every electronic device out there.

    Even online the selections are meager. As a result, I have free cash flow and no debt because there's nothing to buy. Pretty soon I'll be relegated to wearing a toga and using chalk boards to communicate.

"Only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core." -- Hannah Arendt.

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